BEIJING - Facing concerns by some western countries about China's ongoing development, which they think is a "threat", Chinese experts have again said that the country, in fact, will always pursue a path of peaceful development.
"China's development depends on world peace and it will contribute to world peace," said Shi Yongming, a researcher at the Department for International Strategic Studies of the China Institute of International Studies, a key government think tank.
Shi's words echoed Premier Wen Jiabao's explanation on the essence of China's peaceful development during a speech delivered to world leaders and delegates to the annual general session of the UN General Assembly in September.
Wen said China would stay firmly committed to peaceful development, whose essence was "to foster a peaceful international environment for our development and, at the same time, contribute to world peace through our development."
Shi said that to foster a peaceful international environment, China had always given priority to "mutually-beneficial cooperation," which is considered an effective way to tackle disputes in international relations.
He said the fruitful cooperation helped China "gain a peaceful external environment" so that it could focus on its domestic development.
The country's economy saw an annual growth of 11.4 percent on average during the first four years of the 11th Five-year Program (2006-2010). Additionally, the first half of this year saw an 11.1 percent growth, outshining the pace of developed nations.
President Hu Jintao recently reiterated China's adherence to the path of peaceful development in a written interview with France's Le Figaro newspaper and Portugal's Lusa News Agency on the eve of his visit to the two countries.
"China respects the right of the people of other countries to choose their own path of development," Hu said. "China will never interfere in other countries' internal affairs, never impose its own will on others, and is dedicated to peaceful settlements of international conflicts."
Hu said China, with its defensive national defense policy, would never seek hegemony and would never pursue expansion, and China's development was "an important part of the development process of human society."
According to the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee's Proposal for Formulating the 12th Five-Year Program for China's Economic and Social Development (2011-2015), which was adopted at the Fifth Plenum of the 17th CPC Central Committee last month, the country's stance on peaceful development was repeated.
The document, which would shape China's development over the next five years, noted, "China will...adhere to an independent foreign policy of peace, sticking to the path of peaceful development..."
The country also issued a white paper entitled, "China's Peaceful Development Road," in 2005, which, for the first time, elaborated its firm resolution to abide by maintaining peaceful foreign relations. In the same year, China reiterated this commitment in its 11th Five-Year Program.
"China was trying to reassure its neighbors and the world that it would not pose a threat as it gained in strength," said Prof. Joseph Fewsmith of International Relations and Political Science at Boston University, the United States.
"Generally speaking, China's actions are in accordance with its words," Fewsmith said, adding the "China threat theory" has been replaced by talk of China's "soft power."
Gao Zugui, director of the Institute of World Politics of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said China's development path was "completely different from the growth mode of some western powers."
China would "never follow the footsteps of western nations that sought hegemony once they grew strong," Gao said, adding that China's growth would "never harm or pose a threat to anyone."
Tao Wenzhao, a research fellow of the Institute of American Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, another government think-tank, said China had proven that its development contributed to world peace.
He noted that China always advocated solving both international and regional issues through peaceful means.
China was effective and constructive in solving a series of hot spot issues, such as the Iran nuclear and the Korean Peninsula nuclear issues, as well as combating pirates, maintaining the international nuclear non-proliferation regime, multilateral arms control and reduction, anti-terrorism and peacekeeping, Tao said.
While China's influence would continue to grow in the future, western nations would become more "worried and vigilant" about China's growth, and voices calling on China to "shoulder more responsibilities" and "play more important roles" would arise, said Zhou Qingan, a research fellow at the Center for International Communication Studies at Beijing-based Tsinghua University.
Zhou added that "it's time for China to ponder its own rhythm," saying that in the past the country always followed others' models to develop itself.
"During the 12th Five-Year Program period, China should follow its own pace and deal with key issues such as urbanization, increasing personal incomes and narrowing disparities between rural and urban areas," he said.
"Public diplomacy" was also stressed in the proposal for the next five-year blueprint, Zhou said, adding that the government was not the only protagonist in adhering to the peaceful development road, and the masses should participate as well.
"China's peaceful development road means a guarantee for world stability, as policies of the country with the world's largest population are predictable," he said.